Thesis Update Two:
I am scrapping the VLog video series to cover my thesis. I figured I will just write about it. For those not quite naturals before the camera, like myself, it is a bit easier to write it out.
Just to recap: I am writing a Senior history thesis on the Connecticut colonization movement to Liberia before the Civil War. My advisers are Professor Gac (first reader) and Professor Markle (second reader). The thesis is a culmination of a year long project, and will end up being between 80 to 100 pages!
Progress on the thesis has been going well. Although I have done A LOT of research, it still seems like there is A LOT left to do. I have about 60 pages in draft right now. And, I only have a handful of research trips left to make.
This week I met with both my thesis advisers to update them on my progress and get their input on what I have written thus far. On Monday, Professor Gac and I went out to lunch at The Kitchen, a restaurant at Billings Forge. On Thursday, Professor Markel and I had breakfast in Mather.
Thus far, I have written about race relations in antebellum Connecticut, the Colonization vs. Anti-slavery debate, and the experience of blacks from Connecticut while they are in Liberia. I still have some more sections to write about, including the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. AND then, a swarm of REWRITES! Rewriting is where I plan to make sure the thesis has a coherent thread, argument, and narrative structure. After rewrites, there will be a couple of rounds of editing. Then, poof! Thesis will be done.
But before that deadline, I still have a lot of work. Now, I posted two images at the top that relate to my thesis. I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose them. Both are daguerreotypes (an early form of photography) by a Augustus Washington, a Connecticut man who goes to Liberia. The daguerreotype on the left is of famous abolitionist John Brown, known for his raid against Harpers Ferry in 1859. The daguerreotype on the right is of Liberian Senator Edward James Roye. I juxtapose the images because of the presentation of hands, similarity in standing posture, and gazes directly into the camera. But I think the hand positioning is really unique.
On the left, John Brown raises his right hand to swear allegiance to the destruction of slavery. His left hand grasps an ambiguous flag, which is thought to be symbolic for the flag of the “Subterranean Pass Way,” a militant alternative to the Underground Railroad. Similarly, Edward James Roye raises his left hand above his head. We don’t know why he raises his left hand. We only know that a there is an 1857 watercolor of the Liberian Senate, which presents Roye raising his right hand in a similar motion as the daguerreotype. One reading of the Roye daguerreotype is that he, like Brown, is raising his hand to a nation, perhaps the young republic he is helping to shape as a member of the Liberian Senate. Roye would have a long career in Liberian politics, which climaxed in his election to the Presidency of Liberia in 1870. Or, maybe, Roye is raising his hand to another higher cause, like a divine presence. It looks as if his index finger is more extended, as if pointing to something above. Republican Liberia was tough place to live; it was marred by disease, violence with Native Liberians, and inadequate medical care. There is ample evidence that these harsh conditions contributed to a noticeable religiosity among Americo-Liberian settlers. I think the visual parallel between the two images is there, but the reasoning behind them can only be speculative. I love the similarities between the two images. There is a certain power to them: each man stands, looks directly at the camera, and raises a hand. Both men are only united by their common daguerreotypist. But they are also for their significant contributions to the history of both America and Liberia, which, as I show in my thesis, is really a transnational history.
Enough blog writing for now, I am going to get back to my thesis writing!
For those interested in the History major at Trinity, make sure to check out the History Department Blog (click here). There is even a cool post written by my friend Jake Prosnit ’12 about all the thesis writers (& it features your favorite Trinity admissions blogger-ME!). The blog is maintained by Professor Markle and Jake.
Also, some internet sources if you want to learn more about the photographs: